Discussing variations of electoral reform


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This article was published 22/09/2016 (2446 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Elmwood-Transcona MP Daniel Blaikie held a forum on electoral reform on Sept. 8 at Canad Inns Club Regent. Political scientists Paul Thomas and Chris Adams spoke and touched on topics related to replacing Canada’s current voting system with something new.

In the last federal election, like every election before that, voting took place at the constituency level — Canadians only voted for their individual MPs. The political candidates in their ridings who got the most votes was sent to Ottawa as MP.

This is why the system is sometimes called “winner take all” or “first past the post.”

All 338 constituency elections take place on the same day and, while individually they make a lot of sense, nationally the system can produce results that don’t always represent the number of votes a party gets.

For instance, the Green Party can earn 3.45 per cent support from voters nationwide but have only 0.30 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.

Conversely, a party with less diffuse and greater support (such as the Liberals) can win 54 per cent of the seats with just 39.47 per cent of voters casting a ballot for them.

This difference between share of votes cast for a party and seats in parliament is what proposed electoral reforms seek to address.  

Chris Adams discussed one alternative, a proportional representation (PR) system featuring pure party lists. In that system, there would be one national election, people would vote for the parties of their choice and, based on the votes received, candidates from a party would be elected from a list made by said party.

Adams said he dislikes the system, as it lacks local representatives.

A variant Adams likes better is called mixed member PR. There, half the seats are won in local constituency elections (as is done now) and the other half are elected through national or regional party lists.

Paul Thomas described the alternative vote system, where people get the option of ranking candidates in a single constituency. If one candidate gets more than half the first-place votes he or she is elected. If not, the last-place candidate is eliminated and the second-place votes are counted. This goes on until someone gets over 50 per cent of the vote.  Adams also described the single transferable vote (STV) system, which follows similar logic but elects multiple candidates from one constituency (so the threshold is less than 50% + 1).

Feedback, through questionnaires delivered to audience members, and from the a question-and-answer session, will be reported by to the federal minister of democratic institutions.

Dylon Martin is a community correspondent for Elmwood.

Dylon Martin

Dylon Martin
West Broadway community correspondent

Dylon Martin is a community correspondent for West Broadway.

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